November 23 - December 13, 2019: Punta Gorda, Florida
The next stop in our adventure on the East Coast was to Punta Gorda, Florida. Our friends, Muthu and Cindy live there and we thought it would be a great central location for our time in Florida.
Along the way, we traveled from beaches, across the central part of Florida towards Orlando (notice the Mickey power pole below? SMILE), through farm lands and citrus orchards, to the West Coast of Florida and Punta Gorda.
We arrived at Muthu's place in Punta Gorda and set up the trailer along side his house. He has 5 acres so there was plenty of room to park the trailer, but since we were staying in the trailer vs. the house, we wanted to plug into power and water easily.
What is extra special for me is that Muthu's place is in the country so his neighbors have cows in the pasture beside his house, chickens/roosters, and there is even a donkey in the neighborhood. Love it!
As soon as we arrived, we were quickly introduced to the Golden Retriever doggies. Karma (golden color) who is 5 years old and a knucklehead lovebug sweetheart. Padma (white color) who is 10 years old with a gentle soul and great smile. And, sadly Pasha who passed away unexpectedly on our second day there ; (
Wow, I cannot tell you what a great time we had at Muthu's. We did everything and we did nothing! Craig and I arrived on November 13 and Muthu's niece from Malaysia, Jananie, arrived on November 18.
Of course, the first order of business the next day was to take a tour of the property and Muthu's Back 40 (as he calls it). Holy cow....he has at least 60 mango trees, plus a wide variety of oranges, mandarins, lemons, limes, dragon fruit, coconut, bananas, figs, pineapple, and more. It was very cool to wander through the back 40, stop and pick an orange, peel it and eat it, then walk to the next tree and repeat the process. With so much variety, we got to try a TON of different fruits and they were all YUMMY!
Muthu has planted and grown all of the plants from seedlings, grafting, or local nurseries.
He even grows sugarcane and has his own press for extracting the juice! We have tried sugarcane before, but only chewing on the stock. It was wwwaaaayyyyy sweet (literally - smile) to be able to drink it! We would squeeze from fresh lime or lime ice cubes into it and wow....was it good!
One of the days before Jananie arrived, Cindy, Craig and I drove around to a few different beaches near Englewood Beach and Manasota Key. One of things that is famous for this area are fossilized shark teeth. Yep, you heard me right, fossilized shark teeth. For those that know of my fascination with sharks, this was too good to be true. It is common to find small ones, but they say you can even find a Megalodon the size of your hand! There is a special tool that can be used to search for the shark teeth, however we did not take it this day. Cindy taught us what to look for and we found about 8 small shark teeth just by walking along the beach! Imagine what we could find with the special tool...
Walking to the beach, we saw a Florida Gopher Tortoise and the guy below was fishing. Right as we walked up, he caught a bonnethead shark which he successfully removed the hook and put it back in the water. It was pretty cool to see it swim off.
About a week later, Jananie and I went to a different location near Manasota Beach, took the special tool, and...scored! We would take turns wading into the surf and using the tool to extract sand (and all the goodies) from the sea bottom, and then bring it to shore to sift through looking for teeth.
I kept a few of the teeth, but Jananie took most of them because when Craig and I go back in January, I am going to the beach again hunting for fossilized shark teeth! : )
As you can see from our smiles, we both had a blast!
Of course, we cannot forget Thanksgiving! Cindy made a GREAT dinner with all of the traditional items and then some. As you can see from the pictures below, we had way too much food for 5 people. However, we had great leftovers for many days ; )
In addition to pumpkin and apple pie, Cindy made a special dessert called Pavlova. OMG....this is a New Zealand meringue dessert with a crisp crust and soft, light inside, that we topped with raspberries. WOW....it was incredible and I now have the recipe - YIPPPPEE!
In addition to Thanksgiving dinner, we ate incredibly the entire time! One day, Cindy and Jananie made a feast of Malaysian Food (which is one of Craig and my favorites). Cindy made a double batch of the best peanut sauce I have had. We ate it on our salad, chicken, rice, everything. We almost finished the whole bowl (center brown sauce in the picture below) that first night. Cindy gave me the recipe, so another night I made it with a little guidance from her. I can now duplicate it - Watch Out....
Other nights, Jananie made Chicken Curry. And one night she made Curry Puffs (below) and taught me how to fill/fold them. Ya....there are no pictures of mine because it was horrible looking : ) But...it still tasted good thanks to Jananie for making the filling! ; )
Below are a few random pictures from different days. Yes, that is an alligator and turtles in the first picture, this was right outside of an Indian Restaurant we went to in Port Charlotte.
And Jananie, Cindy, and I are famous! One day we attended the Punta Gorda Farmers Market and made the Charlotte County Florida Weekly Paper : )
When Craig and I visit or stay with friends, we don't want to just relax. We both miss working around the house and on projects. So...Muthu and Cindy have a great backyard patio that needed some retaining walls built around it. We convinced them that "yes, we really do want to work and do manual labor" and helped build some retaining walls! Jananie even got drug into the work party!
The patio is already in place as are three different sets of steps (both sides and middle). The retaining walls will be on both sides of the patio and two levels high.
As you can see, Karma was the foredoggie (foreman) on the job site : ) Padma was smart and stayed in the house where it was cool ; )
Also, amazing what type of critters we encounter when working. Anoles, Geckos, and...a juvenile black racer snake. Luckily Cindy is familiar with snakes and okay with picking them up and putting them over the fence. Let's just say when you go to grab a block and encounter a snake, it makes ya a little jumpy even if it is a harmless snake ; )
We completed most of the first level (need to finish the ends by the steps) and then got started on the second level. We were losing daylight, so decided to pick this up the next day.
Yes, I know my eyes are closed in the picture, the sun was just too bright to look into it ; )
We need to cut some blocks to finish this side of the wall and will do that another day and continue working on the wall. Muthu flew out the next day and Jananie was flying out a few days later, so we stopped working on the wall for now and can finish it later.
Muthu lives in Punta Gorda, but works in the Virginia area. After the holidays, he flew back to Virginia and work. So Craig, Jananie, and I dropped him off at the airport in Fort Myers and then ran a few errands. We ended the evening with eating dinner at Capone's. Great pizza and cool stories.
A few days later, Jananie flew to Virginia to explore that area with Muthu, so that left Cindy, Craig, and I with the doggies to get into trouble ; )
One of the days, Craig attended a car show in Port Charlotte while Cindy and I explored thrift stores.
A few days later, Craig flew to Baja to check on the house we are building, buy appliances, a/c units, ceiling fans, etc. For the latest pictures of the Baja house (Casa De La Montaña), click here.
This meant Cindy and I were on our own with the doggies to get into trouble - YEEEE HAAAAW!
Just a few of the things we did was visit a church rummage sale (and made out like bandits - most of the stuff I bought was for the doggies), ate at a killer Greek restaurant, wandered around a Bamboo Express and Farm in Fort Myers, and...
...worked on the retaining walls. As you can see from the pics below, we had 5 more pallets of blocks delivered. Yahoo! We made good progress on clearing the second area and getting it ready, and finishing up different sections of the stair walls. We even got one section planted so we could see how it would look!
There is still a lot of work that needs to be done on the retaining walls, but we hope that we when we go back in the middle of January, we can finish this up!
The best lemonade I have ever had (Greek Restaurant). It was mint lemonade blended with mint so it was slushy. YUMMM.
Fruits picked from Muthu's Back 40, the giant yellow ones are lemons!
After working on the backyard retaining walls, chilling my legs in the swimming pool. Water temp was 72, a little chilly for my entire body, but great on the legs!
Our evenings were spent relaxing from our days adventures. It became a ritual that we would drink a glass of wine, eat dinner watching TV, and...as you can see below, Karma's favorite spot was on the couch waiting for me to finish my dinner so I could give her lovings or a bite of my food : )
Craig and I had previously booked a month stay in Marathon, Florida (Florida Keys) so we left on December 13. We left our trailer at Muthu's place and it was sad to say goodbye. We both had an AWESOME time with Muthu, Cindy, Jananie, Padma, and Karma. The only consolation is that since we left our trailer there, we will be back on January 13!
The pictures below were sent from Cindy and Jananie after our departure. Cindy said that Karma is waiting for us to come back ; )
THANK YOU MUTHU, CINDY, JANANIE, PADMA, AND KARMA for a FANTASTIC time!!!! We sincerely appreciate your hospitality and company!